By Brendan Moyle 19/02/2016

I biked home yesterday.  This in itself is not unusual. I like to bike. And I took a longer route home.  While it was humid here in Auckland, it was also raining. That helped. I mean I got wet, but, that’s not a big deal.  I was the only cyclist over the 10+ km stretch I took.  Everyone else was in cars.  They probably got home drier, albeit I doubt they got home any faster.  So, that got me thinking. I wonder how much time we spend outside these days?

I haven’t been able to find a good answer for NZ.  Or even a good answer I think for the United States.  In 2001 Nature published a time-study for the USA in in Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.  At this point in time, Google has only been in existence for 2 years. The top-selling mobile phone was the Nokia 3310.  Smartphones didn’t exist. YouTube didn’t exist.  So without those modern distractions, the average American spent less than 10% of their day ‘outside’.

FROM: The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants NEIL E KLEPEIS, WILLIAM C NELSON, WAYNE R OTT, JOHN P ROBINSON, ANDY M TSANG, PAUL SWITZER, JOSEPH V BEHAR, STEPHEN C HERN and WILLIAM H ENGELMANN

Now that includes adults who work in agriculture or similar.  For someone living and working in an urban environment, this could easily be less.  The amount of time spent walking to the car or bus. Working all day in an office or a shop. Getting home late, and watching TV or playing on the computer, doesn’t leave a lot of time for spending time outside.

7.6% is 109 minutes. Or 1 hour, 39 minutes per day.  Where a day is 24 hours.    I suspect we spend a lot less time today.  A scary lot less.

Novelists used to describe a dystopian future, where humanity is forced to live underground and away from sunlight. I wonder how many of us would really notice now 🙂


0 Responses to “Is better living really indoor living?”

  • What you so is utterly believable. My partner – who is a very pale English/Welshman – only goes outside to smoke or to get to the car. When our daughter is not in school she would quite happily spend all day indoors on one of her gadgets. If I don’t take her out for some sun and fresh air she wouldn’t go outside at all.

    • Indeed, I don’t think this is uncommon.
      I’m concerned for a couple of reasons.
      First, a lot of environmental standards are devised with the idea we spend time outside (particulates in air, Carbon-monoxide etc). We don’t. We spend it inside. So everything from dust-mites, through to second-hand- smoke, or air-quality in office buildings bring up new problems. Albeit we’ve put a lot of effort into reducing second-hand smoke…
      Second, we’re still an ape species that evolved on the plains of Africa (there’s probably a good reason ‘parks’ which mimic this, are popular). We’ve gone from spending lots of time outside, to very little now. I’m not sure this is good for mental health. It probably has physical health costs as well. We haven’t spent 7 million years evolving to generate a body that is optimised to sit sedately most of our life.